On Time

It’s been a minute (or three) since I’ve updated this blog! I’ve gotten away from the habit; my mind has been running wild, like a rabbit through tall grass, pursued by a fox.

This is Not Good. It’s not disciplined.

So, anyway, I’m back – second book, “Kingdom of the Western Wind”, is out – and I’m working on the third book (titled, but title is not yet released!). I’m also working on another side project.

May you all find peace and joy in these difficult times.

On PTSD

I woke from a dream last night on sexual assault. It was an unpleasant experience, and I’m not going to talk about it here… that’s a story for a different blog post. Suffice to say that it was an uncomfortable night, and I’ll have a great deal to talk about in therapy today.

Instead, I’m going to talk about the US Army, and EOD School.

I was selected in BOLC – Basic Officer Leadership Course – as a candidate for EOD – Explosive Ordnance Disposal – training. It was an honor; only the best of the best are selected. I was the only female officer chosen. When I arrived at training, I was one of three women, out of a class of about thirty. As we progressed, the others failed out, and I was the only one left.

Then, I made my mistake. One of the instructors asked me out. I didn’t report it. Instead, I told one of my friends about it, and asked his advice. I was afraid of what would happen should I report it, and I didn’t know what to do. He told his friends – and before I knew it, the rest of the class stopped talking to me. Rumors flew – I was sleeping with the instructor for my spot, and more along those lines. I won’t bother to repeat them, because they were disgusting. The rest of the class stopped talking to me completely. I continued to work, as hard as I could… but eventually, I failed out.

Looking back, I know that instructor was in the wrong – this is a pervasive problem that affects the U.S. Army. I was sexually assaulted (in the U.S. Army), sexually harassed (in the U.S. Army), and know many other women, and men, who experienced the same (men are most definitely victims as well). Do I regret my service? Absolutely not. But the U.S. Army needs to change. Most definitely, and without question.

On Nursing

A year ago, I was accepted into a nursing program. The day I got my acceptance call was the proudest I’ve been in some time…I danced in the middle of the physical therapy office I was in!

The first quarter went well. I maintained an A- average. I was voted one of two class leaders. I would run after class, to maintain my physical health. Then… my medications changed. I started to shake uncontrollably. I fainted. My eyesight blurred. I had to drop out – it was simply too much, with the physical symptoms and the stress of nursing school. I felt lost; nursing had been my dream for a very long time.

While I was in the hospital, I talked about my feelings of loss, my bitterness about dropping out. A friend – people tend to make friends quickly, in the hospital – looked at me and said, “you’d be an excellent nurse. What’s stopping you from going back?”

What was? I’m stable on my medications. Was it the stigma? The fear of being judged by others for my conditions? The fear of failure?

I don’t know – but I do know this. Last night, I put in an application to nursing school. We’ll see if I’m accepted. I will continue writing; writing one of the lights of my life. But I owe it to myself to pursue my dreams; to refuse to give up; to refuse to give in.

Fight on.

On Hospitalizations

I’m a little nervous, writing this. I wonder if it could lose me readers. If it’ll open me up to judgment. If I’ll receive hate mail. My mind is blowing up with what COULD happen.

But – I’m going to write this anyway. It’s important to break the stigma. It’s important to talk – honestly and openly – about mental health. The Army always taught me to lead by example… how can I refuse to do so now?

On Sunday, 10/06, I was hospitalized for severe depression and suicidal ideation. As many of you know, I have two serious psychiatric diagnoses – PTSD and schizophrenia. Life was overwhelming. Living seemed impossible. And so – I’m proud of this – when it was too difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I raised my hand and asked for help.

The hospital nurses were compassionate and professional. The therapist I saw was wonderful. My psychiatrist was amazing. I’m now on new medications, learned new coping skills, started a new manuscript, and even made a few new friends. In the hospital, the masks come off. People tend to be very honest and open about why they’re there… and I think that’s a strength we need to bring to the outside world.

To anyone out there who is suffering – I’m going to quote one of the hospital nurses, Patrick. He said, everyone has something. Raising your hand and asking for help is brave, not weak. So today, I’m going to challenge you: how can you be brave?

On Books

It’s been a minute since I last blogged! I’ve been busy writing not one, but two new books – the third book in the Revolution trilogy, and a new, unrelated manuscript.

I’ve been asked what books I read, when I’m not writing. I’m a huge bookworm – chances are, if I’m not hiking or writing, you’ll find me curled up with my iPad (have both the Nook and Kindle apps!) and a cup of hot tea. If you’re waiting for the next book in the Revolution series, here’s what I recommend reading in the meantime:

1. the October Daye series. A modern-day faery tale… of a sort. Set in San Francisco, CA and the Summerlands, October Day – “Toby” – is a private detective/knight errant half-fae, half-human who must solve crimes others won’t touch. Written by Seanan McGuire.

2. The Mercy Thompson/Alpha and Omega series. Werewolves? Check. Coyote shapeshifter? Check. A good dose of Native American and Celtic lore? Check. Written by Patricia Briggs.

3. Codex Alera/Dresden Files. Codex Alera is set on another world, modeled after the ancient Roman Empire. Everyone there has a bonded Fury, and can do magical and miraculous things… except Tavi. The book series follows his adventures. Dresden Files is set in Chicago, and follows the investigations of private detective/wizard Harry Dresden. Written by Jim Butcher.

4. The sci-fi work of Lawrence M. Schoen and Brian Thorne… most recently published in “Expanded Universe”. It’s a collection of short stories, all with a unique twist…

Want poetry? I love Yeats, Nikita Gill, and Brittany Morgan. Graphic novels? Check out Maus or Persepolis.

I want to leave you all with a question. My brother and I discussed this last night. What was the most meaningful work you read… in high school? Were those the books that made you into who you are today, or was it something you read on your own?

On Hallucinations

When I’m braver, I’ll describe my hallucinations. What they looked like. What they sounded like. How they were all around me, every day, every night, how I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t do anything without them being there –

But this is not that day. Think of this as Intro to Hallucinations 101, for those who’ve never had them, or never known anyone who had them. That’s fine; there’s no shame in not knowing. This is your opportunity to learn.

There are different kinds of hallucinations – visual, auditory, and tactile. I’ve experienced all three. They are exactly what their names suggest. You see visual; you hear auditory; you feel auditory. As an example – and here I go, talking about my own experiences when I said I wouldn’t! – when I halllucinated, I would see people in my apartment, in my bedroom. I would hear them talking to me. I would feel them touch me – and actual, physical touch. But when I called for help from someone else in the apartment (my mother, my brother), they’d look at me, puzzled. There’s nobody there, my mother or brother would say. There’s no-one. But such is the power of the sick brain that it can convince itself otherwise.

That’s the thing about mental illness. The brain, as an organ, is blind. It doesn’t realize when it’s sick. At the time, nobody realized I was ill… this was when I first started hearing/seeing/feeling hallucinations, and wasn’t on medication. That quickly changed. I’m much better now, and thank God for it. But if it wasn’t for the intervention of my family, I wouldn’t have realized that I was ill (which is also why having a strong support network is so important when you’re mentally ill!).

Thanks for the read. Questions? Comments? Let me know!

On Having Schizophrenia

A reader asked me once, “how do you know what it’s like, having schizophrenia?”

Spoiler: I can write a series about it because I, in fact, have it. I go to weekly therapy. I am on heavy-duty medication, which keeps me functional. Even so, every day, it can be a real struggle – with paranoia, with depression, with basic tasks like brushing my teeth.

I wrote a book series about someone who is fairly high-functioning… and yet, she still struggles. Because schizophrenia is a disability. There’s no getting around it. It’s an illness. I’m blessed to have a support system – a loving family, a close network of friends that “gets” me. Not everyone with schizophrenia, or any other mental illness, has that.

This is not a plea for pity. I don’t need pity. I’ve written a book series – I served in the Army – I served as a Sexual Assault Specialist – I’ve lived a very full and blessed life, with more yet to come. It is a request for empathy… that we remember that every single human being on this planet is struggling, and that we love them accordingly. That we remember that all of us are God’s children, and that we act that way.

So. Read Eileen’s story. Think about it. Ask me questions, here or on my Facebook page… I’m happy to answer! And thank you, so much, for coming with me on the journey so far.

List of Writerly Implements

So what do you need to be a writer?

If you’re like me, you’ll have these things:

One (1) iPad with a broken shell;

One (1) lucky hoodie – other clothing optional – JUST KIDDING – no really please just kidding;

One (1) ill-mannered black cat;

Two (2) cow cats;

One (1) ferociously energetic border beagle, who will interrupt your writing at inopportune times;

Two (2) labradoodles, who will… well, actually they won’t do much at all;

And on (1) set of headphones and iPhone, to drown them all out!

Who Am I?

I wrote the title of this blog post, and started feeling like I was in a philosophy class! I’ll keep it real, though – nothing philosophical about it. Promise.

I was born to a US Navy family. My mother was an NCIS agent, who left the service when she married my father; my father was a US Navy officer. We moved around the country and the world throughout my childhood. Eventually, my two younger brothers, John and Josiah (who incidentally is my beta reader), were born.

I defected to the Army – and doesn’t THAT get uncomfortable on Army/Navy football games! – and went to University of Virginia on an Army ROTC scholarship. There, I majored in anthropology and religious studies, and eventually commissioned as an officer. I served four years, was medically retired with PTSD and severe migraines, and became a Sexual Assault Specialist at a local nonprofit. I worked there for nine months before becoming severely ill – at which point, after hospitalization, I became a substitute teacher while recovering.

(Let me just say – my hat is off to all the teachers out there. My mother now works as a teacher, and I have immense respect for everything you do. Substitute teaching was bad enough. I can’t even imagine working at a school full-time).

At that point… I felt lost. I didn’t know what to do with my life. I was writing, feverishly, obsessively, and one day my mother, who is a great deal smarter than me, rolled her eyes and pointed out that I was already doing something with my life. Why didn’t I move ahead with my story?

So I did. And the Revolution series was born.